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Go Code Colorado's 2017 challenge launching Feb. 1

The Go Code Colorado challenge is about to kick off in 2017. The state will announce the goal of this year's challenge on Feb. 1 at an event at the Golden Triangle Galvanize

It's the fourth year for the challenge. The event that brings together entrepreneurs, business partners and developers to harness the wealth of public data to create apps aimed at solving problems. 

Secretary of State Wayne Williams will kick off the event which will include thought leaders from across Colorado who will talk about what's happening in the tech/innovation sector with their community. It will be the first of numerous events in Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins and Grand Junction that will culminate in choosing winners at an event on May 27.

"Two teams from each challenge site will move on to a mentor weekend in Boulder to further flush out ideas with tech leaders, lawyers and entrepreneurs from across the state," says Go Code Colorado spokesperson Brandy Whalen. "Ultimately, 3 teams will take home $25,000 for the best app concept." The funds will help the teams make the concept a reality. 

The event is proving popular. "Last year we had around 200 people divided amongst 35 teams," Whalen says. 

In 2016 the teams were asked to create an app and business concept that helps businesses build a competitive strategy. The winners were Foodcaster, Regulation Explorer and Hively. "All three winning teams from last year are actively working on business and app development," Whalen explains. Foodcaster integrates foot traffic and cellular service data, food truck parking regulations, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook to help food truck owners find optimal locations and times. Regulation Explorer aims to streamline the permitting process for oil and gas exploration. Hively is using employment data to help businesses make better hiring decisions.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Cloud Elements raises $13M in Series B financing

Denver's Cloud Elements, an API integration platform provider, raised $13 million in a Series B funding round led by Harbert Growth Partners. With the latest round, the two-year-old company has raised $21.2 million. 

The company, named a "Denver Gazelle" in 2016, has enjoyed dynamic growth since launching, experiencing revenue growth of 40 percent on a quarter-over-quarter basis. The company said that makes it the fastest growing API management vendor in the industry.

"Over the past few years, the industry has witnessed exponential growth in public and private APIs," says Mark Geene, co-founder and CEO of Cloud Elements. "Businesses now rely on APIs as a critical component of daily operations, and the number of APIs needed per business will only continue to rise, leading to higher costs and delays for go-to-market strategies, customer programs and more."

Since launching in 2012, Geene's company has grown from offering a few API integration services to more than 120 pre-built API connectors to integrate multiple programs. "Our vision for the next generation of digital business is to unify the world of APIs in such a way that makes it easy for businesses to quickly and seamlessly integrate applications of any kind at a much lower cost -- something that has only been a daydream of developers until now," Geene says.

The integration platform that Cloud Elements has created allows developers to integrate cloud services, enterprise application and connected devices. "APIs are what enable businesses to really embrace digital transformation," explains Tom Roberts, a general partner at Harbert, who joined Cloud Elements' board. "Cloud Elements has been a pioneer in establishing this new space of enabling all APIs to work together, which is reinforced by their fast growth since they've launched their platform. We're excited to support their next-generation initiatives for the modern business and are to see where they lead."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

CDOT's $500K RoadX challenge open through February

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) launched the RoadX Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge in 2016 to develop better systems to help those on foot and bicycles travel more safely. The RoadX challenge is open to proposals through Feb. 27. 

The challenge is made through a partnership with the Colorado Innovation Network's Imagine Colorado. The department said it is the nation's first statewide open innovation challenge platform to generate new ideas. In this case, the platform is taking on the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

Department officials hold that technological solutions to pedestrian and cycling safety can save lives. Studies have found that pedestrian crashes represent 10 percent of all fatalities and 7 percent serious injuries in Colorado. Bicycle crashes represent another 2 percent of all fatalities and 4 percent of all serious injuries in Colorado. 

The department will award $50,000 to the best ideas to help put them into action and the rest of the funds will support bringing concepts into reality, according to advocacy organization Bicycle Colorado. It will divide the awards into two tracks, the "Idea-thon" and the "Do-athon."

Under the first track up to five winners will each receive $10,000 for submitting a groundbreaking technological idea to improve bicycling and pedestrian safety. Under the second track, innovators can submit a unique and implementable idea that they must deploy within eight months of being selected as a finalist on March 31, 2017.

CDOT will select up to five finalists to build a proof of concept and will support each with $75,000 to help them launch the pilot. Of those, the one that implements the best program in the time period will receive $150,000 to continue it. The runner-up will receive $50,000 and the third runner-up will receive $25,000 to further develop their safety deployments. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Grad students help design a more walkable Montbello

WalkDenver, in its latest partnership with CU Denver graduate students, is tackling walkability issues in northeast Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. 

Bordered by major streets including 56th Avenue, Peoria Street, Chambers Road and I-70 the neighborhood struggles with ensuring its pedestrians, including the children who make up about 40 percent of residents in the area, have access to safe walking routes.

WalkDenver reports that more than 90 percent of students at McGlone Academy and Maxwell Elementary -- part of its 10 school Safe Routes to School Travel Plan project -- live within a mile of their respective campuses and don’t have school buses, meaning that children in the area walk, bike or are driven to school. In making the assessments, the CU Denver students performed on-site audits, researched demographic data interviewed local residents and used the WALKscope tool.

The CU Denver students and their assistant professor, Ken Schroeppel, presented their findings to community members. They found a number of ways to help make Montbello a safer place for pedestrians. They recommended upgrading sidewalks to current wider standards throughout the neighborhood and identified a lack of safe crossings on the wide roads throughout the neighborhood. Other factors that reduce walkability in the neighborhood include poorly maintained sidewalks, high speed limits and a dearth of shade trees. The students recommended improving sidewalks, crossings and bicycle lanes close to schools, parks, recreation centers and libraries.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

 

Denver-area startups win $15K in national Calvert Foundation competition

It was a Denver-area sweep for the 2016 Calvert Foundation Small Business Competition, with three local businesses winning the top three prizes in the national competition.

Outdoor adventure and clothing store Feral Mountain Company, took the top prize, $10,000. Denver's Pearl Wine Company took second, winning $3,000 and Golden-based rock and ice-climbing service Golden Mountain Guides, took third, winning $2,000.

"We are very proud of all our borrowers who participated in this competition and heartily congratulate those who won," says Ceyl Prinster, CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF), which supported each of the winners. "Starting a business can be cash-intensive, so when our borrowers are able to access additional funding that can help them grow to the next level, we are all for it."

It was the first time the Calvert Foundation held the competition, which was open to small businesses that received financing from nonprofit lenders like CEF. The goals of the contest, sponsored by the Calvert Foundation, were to promote small businesses with ties to the local community, enhancing business operations and educating people on investing in the local community and businesses that create local jobs. The contest also was aimed at generating awareness of the Calvert Foundation's Community Investment Note, which supports investments in small businesses. 

"We had over 5,000 votes -- way more than we expected," says Senior Officer of Investor Relations at the Calvert Foundation Katherine St. Onge. "We are so thrilled that the participants were able to showcase the value of small businesses to so many people!"

The Maryland-based Calvert Foundation launched the Ours To Own (OTO) Denver campaign in 2014. That effort is designed to channel capital towards community development efforts in Denver.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Commons on Champa looks back on its first full year at new campus

The Commons on Champa, Denver's center for entrepreneurship and innovation, recently released its 2016 impact report. The center reports that since launching its campus on the eponymous Champa St. downtown in 2015, it's served more than 23,000 community members.

The center has served those entrepreneurs through 450 programs and events it's hosted with 145 partners. That includes hosting 19 Meetup groups per month. The center also plays an integral part in Denver Startup Week and has hosted 4,000 people at events during that entrepreneurship juggernaut.

The bulk of those programs, 275, were hosted in 2016, according to the Commons. The programs were presented by 120 partners and 85 percent of them were free to the public. Through Denver's Office of Economic Development, the Commons also offered 326 hours of one on one assistance in helping people launch startups. 

To further support growth in Denver's innovator space, the Commons launched the InCommons Mentorship Program in 2016. That program connects entrepreneurs, innovators and disruptors with business leaders, innovators, and investors. It allows them to attend monthly mentor hours at the campus, join industry specific and subject matter forums and share online resources. It also gains them access to online, collaborative goal-setting tools. The offering already includes 240 members and 80 mentors and financial support from 20 partners.

As a capstone to its efforts in 2016, the Commons on Champa was awarded an Inclusion Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The campus will use the $400,000 grant in 2017 and 2018 to expand entrepreneurship focused on the inclusion of military veterans, women, people of color and new American citizens. It offers eight-week programs to help participants launch their businesses.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Food Vision introduced for public comment

The first draft of the Denver Food Vision is open to public comment through the end of January. Officials aim to help the city further improve the food system, create jobs and improve access to healthy food.

Officials say Denver's food system includes tens of thousands of skilled food system employees, thousands of businesses and hundreds of nonprofits, school and community gardens. It also includes food pantries and emergency food access. Despite those factors, the city also states that nearly 20 percent of children experience food insecurity or hunger. The new plan aims to address all those issues.

"From farm to table, Denver's food system presents an incredible opportunity to strengthen the health of our communities, as well as promote business development and job creation," says Mayor Michael Hancock. "Through this community vision, we will have a solid framework in place to help guide public and private resources to build a stronger, more resilient Denver."

In developing the food vision plan, the city held 11 community listening sessions and 11 focus groups with food businesses that generated nearly 5,000 comments. The city also is seeking feedback and hosting two hearings on Jan. 12, one at Mile High United Way from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m and another at the Commons on Champa from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. People can also comment on the draft via an online survey. People can also email their questions and comments to DenverFoodPlan@denvergov.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Access Gallery launches 2017 with "Stick 'em up Chuck"

Access Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe is aimed at helping those with disabilities experience art, including by making art. Its latest gallery show, "Stick 'em up Chuck," which opens Jan. 6 and runs through Feb. 3, is a prime example of accessible art by using stickers as the medium.

The works were inspired street artists and Gonkar Gyatso, a contemporary Tibetan artist, whose work uses both Buddhist iconography and pop images like colorful children's stickers.

"We wanted to see what we could really do with everyday objects that need little if any artistic talent," explains Access Gallery Director Damon McLeese. "We have a smiley face piece made of 10,000 smiley face stickers, a huge teddy bear, a fish and a car based on one of our ArtWorks artist drawings."

The exhibit is the culmination of the VSA Colorado and Access Gallery's fall residency programs in which the participants explored mediums that are highly accessible materials for those with significant physical and mental disabilities. They focused on materials that are inexpensive, easily transported and workable as well as sticky, tacky and tactile. Stickers, they found, met those needs.

"One of our volunteers hooked us up with a bevy of stickers and we decided to make an entire gallery show made of stickers," McLeese says. Longmont, Colorado-based StickerGiant provided the bulk of raw materials for the show.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Blinker app refinances car loans

Denver's Blinker has just launched an app aimed at disrupting the trillion-dollar auto-loan market.

"People want to finance their car just as easily as they can call an Uber," says Rod Buscher, founder and CEO of Blinker. "We offer car loans that are competitive, transparent and easy to complete from anywhere. Car-owners can finance a used car purchase or refinance an existing loan in minutes -- all on their mobile device. No banks, no dealerships." 

Users take pictures of a vehicle and its license plate, and its patented image-recognition technology allows the company to recognize the vehicle. After uses answer some questions they can refinance their vehicle to reduce the costs associated with their loan. There are no origination or loan fees.

The app offers a refinancing quote, payment and cash-back options. After a user selects an option they authorize Blinker to perform a credit check. After approved Blinker pays off the existing loan sets up the new payment plan -- and if a user chooses to refinance for cash, deposits it in the user's bank account. 

Without affecting credit scores, Blinker can give refinancing quotes for vehicles from 2010 or newer with less than 100,000 miles and at least $5,000 left on their auto loan. Currently, the app is limited to users in Colorado but Blinker plans to expand it beyond the state soon. 

Throughout the country users can use the app to take a picture and learn the make, model, year and estimated value and mileage of any vehicle on the road. It's like taking the license plate game to whole new level.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Enterprise Fund reaches new heights for 40th anniversary

The Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) saw record growth in its 40th year. Among other things, its total portfolio balance increased to $16.2 million and its loans increased from $4.4 million in 2013 to $9.2 million in 2016. 

In terms of jobs, its loans helped the companies it supports retain and create 2,369 jobs in fiscal year 2016, which ended Sept. 30. That's up from 1,747 or 36 percent in fiscal year 2013. 

"This was an amazing team effort," says Ceyl Prinster, CEF president and CEO. "Our ability to help more businesses start and grow so their communities can prosper was only possible through the tireless dedication of our staff and strategic support of our board of directors. We're thrilled to have made history as we celebrated our 40th year of helping small businesses in Colorado!"

Since launching in Denver in 1976, CEF has issued more than $56 million in loans supporting more than 1,900 small businesses and creating and retaining more than 16,000 jobs. Since then the fund has become a US Treasury Department certified Community Development Financial Institution.

Over the past few years, the organization saw increases across the board, allowing it to help fund even more small businesses and foster more job growth. It closed $9.2 million in loans in 2016, an increase of $2.1 million, 30 percent higher than in the previous year. It also closed a total of 217 loans which is 13 percent higher than in the previous year.

In the past three years, the amount of loans CEF managed grew from 365 to 550 loans. The organization also expanded who it granted loans to as well. CEF loans to minority-owned businesses increased 111 percent while loans to low-income entrepreneurs increased 72 percent. Loans to women-owned businesses grew by 36 percent and were nearly half of all the loans CEF closed over the past three years. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Kauffman Foundation awards $400K grant to Commons on Champa

Denver's center for entrepreneurship, The Commons on Champa, won a $400,000 Inclusion Challenge grant from the Kauffman Foundation. The new grant will allow the Commons on Champa to launch the "Entrepreneurial Journey" accelerator program to expand its work with female and minority entrepreneurs and innovators. 

The new "Entrepreneurial Journey" program is free and will focus on educational resources for women, people of color, military veterans and new American citizens. It will be offered quarterly, includes a track-based curriculum and aims to serve hundreds of individuals from underserved communities each year.

"The Commons on Champa was founded to grow downtown Denver's culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and by reducing barriers to entry and supporting entrepreneurs from all walks of life," says Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. "We truly believe that economic growth and city-wide prosperity happens when entrepreneurs come together to create community, share ideas and empower themselves, and we thank the Kauffman Foundation for the support of The Commons on Champa."

The new award is one of 12 Inclusion Challenge grants awarded to nonprofit organizations. The Commons on Champa said that 376 applicants applied for the grant funds and support from the Kauffman Foundation. The Kauffman Foundation presented the awards at its Mayor's Conference on Entrepreneurship in St. Petersburg, Fla. The awards ranged from $87,000 to $420,000 over the next two years.

"Collaborations like The Commons on Champa are creating empowering spaces for entrepreneurs from all walks of life to achieve their business goals, reducing existing barriers to starting up and driving a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship," says Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. "We welcome the opportunity to leverage this grant to better equip our women and minority entrepreneurs with the skills, network and resources necessary to turn their incredible ideas into successful businesses."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Startup Week announces 2017 dates

Denver Startup Week recently announced that it will host the nation's largest free entrepreneurial event in 2017 from Sept. 25 through Sept. 29. In early 2017 the organizations behind the events will offer more details, including things like how to propose session ideas.

The event, which is returning for its sixth year in 2017, has quickly become massive. In 2016 1,334 people signed up to attend the events, which included 306 free programs held throughout downtown Denver aimed spurring and growing the local innovation and entrepreneurship community in the city and state.

"Denver Startup Week is a celebration of entrepreneurship, and the diversity of industries represented allows everyone to learn from outside of their respective 'box,'" says Anthony Franco, founder of Denver startup mcSquares. "There is something in the air here in Denver that is electrifying for founders, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

The organizing committee behind Denver Startup Week includes Galvanize COO Ben Deda, Downtown Denver Partnership CEO Tami Door and Executive Director of the University of Denver's Project X-ITE Erik Mitisek. They announced the new dates on Nov. 15, which the Obama Administration named National Entrepreneurship Day this year, in recognition of entrepreneurs across the country. 

"National Entrepreneurship Day was designated with a call to action to support budding entrepreneurs, and tap into the diverse skills and talents of the entrepreneurial community to create businesses of the 21st century. It seemed only fitting that we leverage this day to announce that Denver Startup Week will return for a sixth year as one of the best resources in the nation for those looking to start or grow a business," Deda says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Donate and upgrade baggage with eBags and Goodwill

For the first time, eBags has partnered with Goodwill and Give Back Box to offer a Trade In, Trade Up Program. Through the program, Goodwill and Give Back Box will find a new home for a gently used backpack, business case, handbag or duffel that they no longer need and customers get a 25 percent discount coupon and a free eBags Connected Luggage Tag.

The Give Back Box program reuses boxes for shipping. As such the program helps keep both used travel gear and shipping materials out of landfills.

It doesn't matter where luggage or travel item was purchased, according to Krista Paul, vice president of business development and partnerships at eBags. She adds, "The program is available across the US eBags customers need only download a pre-paid shipping label and either drop off or organize a pick-up from UPS or USPS." 

To help automate the program, eBags partnered with the organizations. The shipping is done courtesy of Give Back Box and is shipped to the nearest Goodwill location, according to Paul. 

The Greenwood Village-based company also recently expanded its product lines by 41 percent, including 11 new private-label products and the Connected Luggage Tag, an ID tag that uses an app to track lost luggage.

The expansion, holiday season and Trade In, Trade Up Program are driving new employment at the company. "In anticipation of extra business from the holiday traffic coupled with new sales from the incentives granted to customers who utilize the Trade In, Trade Up Program, we have added approximately 20 to 25 new customer service agents," Paul says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Couragion named "Startup of the Year" at 16th annual APEX Awards

The Colorado Technology Association (CTA) held its 16th annual APEX Awards, which recognizes the accomplishments of Colorado technology companies. The CTA recognized 10 people and companies for their achievements in the past year. The Startup of the Year award was granted to Couragion, which aims to help students get into STEM careers.

Couragion was selected as the most promising tech company under two years of age. The grants are awarded to a companies that’s taken initiative in its field, its innovation and finding a need in the marketplace for a product or service. 

ViaWest won the Company of the Year award. The association says the company of the year award is granted to a Colorado-based company for its overall performance as a leader in its market.The CTA helps drive economic development in Colorado, explains Michael Marcotte, CEO of Acumen Digital and CTA board chairman. "People who care about this, and care about our future generations, share a passion in creating an environment that gives us a wonderful place to live, work and play. Those honored at the 2016 APEX Awards are a great example of continuing this legacy."

Other winners included Annette Quintana, who won the CEO of the Year Award for leading Istonish; John Suthers, Colorado Springs' mayor, who won the Advocate of the Year award; and Page Tucker, CEO of ProStar Geocorp, who won the Entrepreneur Excellence Award.

The awards were presented by Accenture and granted at the Seawell Grand Ballroom Nov. 9 at a red-carpet event. Independent panels of judges selected the winners and runners-up. 

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

The Denver Art Museum seeks ideas for Untitled Final Fridays in 2017

The Denver Art Museum is hosting "Meet Here: An Evening of Untitled Idea Brewing and Creative Criss-Cross" on Nov. 18, a brainstorming event for creatives and others to generate ideas for outdoor installations, residencies and the 2017 Untitled Final Fridays series of events at the museum. The events bring local artists and the community together for exhibitions and installations. The workshop is open from 6 to 8 in the evening.

"Ideas are needed for upcoming projects including outdoor installations, residencies, and 2017's Untitled Final Fridays," explains Camila Navarrette, a spokesperson for the museum. "Local craftsmen, chefs, musicians, artists and other movers and makers are invited to brainstorm the activities for the upcoming Untitled season and potential new programs for DAM."

The free event is being held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first floor of the North Building and will include food and beverages from a cash bar. The event will include mini-think tank sessions where attendees will work together to generate ideas. 

People can send RSVPs to lhegge@denverartmuseum.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

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